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Match Reports

Pritchard leads City to 2-0 win

26 December 2017

Alex Pritchard and Josh Murphy struck either side of half time to give Norwich a comfortable victory over Birmingham.

Daniel Farke made five changes to the side that started the last two games for City. There was a return to central midfield for Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey, who were such integral parts of Norwich’s eight-game unbeaten run. Academy graduate Jamal Lewis was handed his first start, coming in at left-back, while Christoph Zimmermann lined up alongside Timm Klose, with Grant Hanley on the bench following a knock against Brentford. Josh Murphy returned in place of Marley Watkins. Cameron Jerome and Wes Hoolahan were still suffering from knocks and didn’t travel with the squad.

City started brightly, with Murphy on the left and Pritchard on the right, and Tettey and Trybull sitting behind Maddison. It was Maddison who looked lively early on, combining well with Pritchard to win a free-kick on the edge of the area in the sixth minute. But Maddison sent the free-kick a foot over the crossbar with David Stockdale beaten.

Two minutes later and City went close again. Nice one-touch play on the edge of the area created room for Oliveira, who held it well before knocking it to Murphy, who did well to cut inside and lose his marker, but his shot went agonisingly wide of the far post.

Birmingham grew into the half but were offering little threat in attack, with the returning Zimmermann and debutant Lewis having good games. On 25 minutes Jonathan Grounds tried a speculative curler from 20 yards, but Angus Gunn did brilliantly to push the effort around the post.

City should have opened the scoring before the half-hour mark following a lovely one-touch move. Maddison picked out Ivo Pinto on the right, who brought it down and saw the City runners in the area. Pritchard did well to arrove first but scuffed his shot wide when he should have hit the target.

A couple of minutes later and Pritchard made amends in the best possible way, following a clever free-kick routine. Pritchard won the free-kick 40 yards out, relatively centrally. With Maddison shaping to whip the ball into the box he instead cleverly played in Pritchard to the right of the wall and he made no mistake this time, crashing the ball past David Stockdale from 10 yards to give City a deserved lead.

City came desperately close to a second just before half-time as the nerves disappeared and they really began to dominate. Maddison drove forward from half-way, slipped in Oliveira on the left and his right-foot curler looked destined for the bottom corner but Stockdale saved well. The rebound fell to Maddison, but his shot was blocked and the ball popped up to Pritchard on the edge of the area. His brilliant volleyed effort, with the ball falling behind him, was well tipped over the bar by Stockdale to bring the half to a close.

Birmingham made two changes at the break, with the lively Jota off for Jacques Maghoma and Cheikh Ndoye replaced by David Davis. The change meant Birmingham looked to go longer quicker early in the second half, with Kieftenbeld driving just over from distance.

Murphy worked a chance for himself on 50 minutes, dancing inside from the left but his shot was straight at Stockdale from the edge of the area.

Birmingham were throwing more men forward, but City were throwing themselves into blocks and moving the ball quickly on the counter. They came close to doubling the lead twice in two minutes. First Pritchard sent a 25-yard dipping effort towards the top corner, but Stockdale saved brilliantly. Then, in a crowded penalty area, Trybull toe-poked just wide with Stockdale beaten.

The yellows doubled their lead in the 71st minute. Pritchard picked the ball up centrally and played a beautiful reverse pass to Murphy, who rounded Stockdale and hammered it home under pressure.

Five minutes later Farke made his first substitution, with the tireless Nelson Oliveira replaced by Marley Watkins. A second change came soon after, with Harrison Reed replacing Maddison.

As the match entered the last 10 minutes City went close twice. First Tettey arrived on the edge of the area but his side-footed effort was straight at Stockdale, and then the keeper did well to turn a low Murphy drive from a tight angle around the post.

With five minutes remaining, Pritchard was replaced by Yanic Wildschut as City looked to keep their shape and keep Birmingham at bay.

City comfortably saw the game out for an important three points. 

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